Banbury's Prodrive unveil new powertrain test facility

The motorsport and automotive innovators today unveiled a state of the art powertrain facility that will both attract interest from all over the world and allow Prodrive to spearhead further technological innovations.
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For the past five years engines tuned and developed by Prodrive for the likes of Aston Martin Racing have been tested in Northampton.

All that has now changed as their powertrain units can undergo rigorous and incredibly detailed testing at their Chalker Way headquarters in Banbury.

At the heart of the new facility is its 660 kW transient dynamometer, or dyno, which can replicate the exact race conditions an engine will have to endure on any race circuit down to the air speeds and pressure, temperatures and humidity levels.

Chairman David Richards in the new powertrain facility in ProdriveChairman David Richards in the new powertrain facility in Prodrive
Chairman David Richards in the new powertrain facility in Prodrive

It is also one of the most powerful in the country able to handle engines with 880hp.

Engines are connected to the 660 kW AC motor which simulates the stresses generated from the vehicle during times of acceleration and braking.

Much like how an F1 car can harness the energy used in braking to charge its batteries, energy produced on the dyno under similar conditions is fed into the national grid and is another area where sustainability and green issues are at the forefront of Prodrive's innovations.

Arthur Shaw, Prodrive chief engine engineer, gave a demonstration of the dyno, equipped with a 4.0 litre V8, twin turbo Aston Martin Le Man race car engine replicating its pole winning lap of the famous circuit.

Prodrive's Arthur Shaw explains the capabilities of the dynoProdrive's Arthur Shaw explains the capabilities of the dyno
Prodrive's Arthur Shaw explains the capabilities of the dyno

The dyno can also work with electric, hybrid or fully fuel powered units as well as larger 4x4 powertrains.

Arthur said: "When we moved buildings, we struggled to find places to test with enough power so building his place has really opened up doors."

The company was instrumental in the creation of the electric Ford Transit Van and is developing an electric HGV in partnership with Volta Trucks.

The company is even looking beyond electric, as David Richards, chairman of Prodrive, explains: "There is a big debate about where drive trains are going to go. My personal view is the route down electric is going to be a transition to something else.

"One of the things we are looking at now are hydrogen cells and how we might develop those."

Of the £2.3m invested into the facility £500,000 came from the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLep) who encourage and champion the county's economic potential.

Nigel Tipple, chief executive of OxLEP, said: “The completion of such a significant project that will have a positive impact on Prodrive is excellent news.

“We are delighted to have secured such a major Local Growth Fund allocation for this project and we are sure it can be real asset to Oxfordshire, as we continue to support our growing economy for the benefit of both the county and ‘UK PLC’.”

Already the facility is grabbing worldwide attention with inquiries for its use coming in from as far a field as China.

David said: "It’s one of the biggest investments that Prodrive has ever made, but with our motorsport operations continuing to grow at a pace and increasing enquiries for the development of complex electric vehicle and hybrid technology, now is the optimum time for us to introduce our Powertrain Development Centre.”

Banbury mayor, Cllr John Colegrave added: "It staggering what goes on in little old Banbury. You have all this going on which is cutting edge technology, its unbelievable and a real eye opener of the level of advancement there is in the town."